PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago — The government of Trinidad and Tobago has partnered with Coursera and Khan Academy to bring online education to the entire country. Through the usage of massive open online courses (MOOCs), the government hopes to create a ‘knowledge network’ for the entire country.
Spain is dependent on gas and oil, a situation that the Minister of Tertiary Education in Trinidad and Tobago, Fazal Karim, hopes to remedy by making the country globally competitive.
The online education system would work through the website, knowledge.tt. This website features a variety of courses to take that are organized by areas of study.
To supplement the online education in Trinidad and Tobago, students can go to the University of Trinidad’s local campus
locations and hold discussions with the facilitators along with other students taking the course.
Once the students graduate, they receive a government-certificate of participation and are also eligible for an internship program with 400 different employers.
The educational model is called the Learning Hub Model and was developed by Coursera. The Learning Hub Model has been implemented in universities, embassies and libraries around the world.
Trinidad and Tobago have invested heavily into the country’s education system. Most recently, the government spent $253 million to provide 73,200 laptops to students from 2010 to 2013. The country has spent 18 percent of the country’s annual expenditures and 6 percent of its GDP on education since 2010.
The trend toward improving education in Trinidad and Tobago is linked to the larger goal of making the country economically competitive. Trinidad and Tobago hope to change the main export of the country from oil and gas and create a ‘knowledge economy.’ The country has a projected target of 60 percent of its young people to pursue higher education by 2015.
Institutions around the world have begun to notice the developments of Coursera and its learning model. If the model is successful in Trinidad and Tobago, it holds the potential to be implemented in numerous other countries.
At the University of Pennsylvania, the “MOOCs for development’ conference brought together “scholars, policy makers, program officers, administrators, and technologists from the educational and development sectors” to discuss the dynamics of online education. In addition, the United Nations will hold a conference about MOOCs next month.
In the fight against poverty, the advent of the Internet campus has the potential to provide skills to those who cannot access a traditional education. For the pioneers of online education, the MOOC system is not intended to replace a college education but rather to be utilized as a resource, to bridge geographical isolationism and bring education to people around the world.
This is especially important for those living in poverty. The online model brings college education that much closer, and grants skills and knowledge to those that may never have had the opportunity with the traditional model.